Visionary founder of Women on Fire, Judith Seelig writes on various topics related to our fundamental relationship with the earth.
Women, Money, Earth and Worth
A personal note on the Women on Fire weekend at Embercombe, with perhaps wider application.
Real, heart-felt gratitude is a lovely, nourishing feeling. If you allow gratitude enough time to flood your entire body, it’s possible to sink into a sumptuous wellbeing, a kind of honeyed, sensual abundance.
Feeling gratitude is down to you. What do you notice, what do you value? If you’re reading this, you are living in a place and in a society where, despite much room for improvement, there is yet more to be grateful for. Food, freedom, the beauty of nature and the companionship of others are among numerous causes for gratitude.
Expressing gratitude or appreciation is something else. Whether by thought, speech or action, expressing gratitude puts you in relationship with what you are appreciating. Your gratitude is a gift for the other. It’s a way of making sumptuous wellbeing delightfully contagious.
My personal view is that feeling grateful to the anonymous producer of food and to all the forces of nature for the food that I eat, better nourishes me and vibrates the air with appreciation. I know in advance how much I will pay for the food that I choose to buy. Just like any other commodity, its price will reflect how much is available and how many of us are likely buyers. But for me the value of the food is not how little I paid. More how much vitality it offers. I would rather eat a little beautifully grown food than plenty of poorly-tended produce.
The work that I do with individuals, whether privately or in groups, isn’t vital to life, but it can be nourishing. It’s not a well-known commodity. In many respects it’s unusual, with no place in our culture. Even though words are my craft (the career I gave up for this was as journalist, writer and editor) I am unable to convey its power or its style. Partly that’s because the power is not mine, though it might appear to be so. Partly it’s because the knowing is not mine, though I am the one speaking. Mostly it’s because I serve to the best of my ability the great mystery that is the unspeakable. So I leave it to others to find me, or to feel drawn.
So how do I put value upon my work? How do I set my charges? I don’t look to the market, for I don’t find there what I offer. Of course I know the mundane costs that have to be met, and I know how many hours a class or an event covers, but then there are the hours of preparation and the roughly one third of my life I spend in solitude, listening. This is my wild time, timeless and formless, literally vital to what I have to offer. I set a fee that reflects this richness, and then so as to deny no one access to the offering, I may adjust downwards, sometimes to a bag of apples.
We are accustomed to viewing success as inextricably entwined with money. We might view the material aspects of someone’s life and deduce how much money they have or earn. Is material wealth abundance? Not by my book. For me abundance - which means ‘overflowing’ - is to be flooded with gratitude. Gratitude pours through you and out of you. This is a true wealth, for it spills out and enriches others, spontaneously, of its own accord. Gratitude is such a lovely thing to feel it tends to nurture beautifully thoughtless little gestures of generosity. Perhaps it begins with a smile to a stranger and then bursts into a small, spontaneous act of giving. Gratitude begets abundance.
Part of what I teach is good housekeeping. Give away, empty out, so that you have space to receive again, and again. Let life flow through you, hugely, so that all the action you take is funded by the whole. Be precise. Don’t waste energy doing something whilst thinking about something else. Let what you don’t know be as much a part of life as the known, or the familiar. Take stock of what you have, be grateful, give away or share. If you don’t like some aspect of your life, take proper action. If you need a broader perspective, move, change. Stand in a new space or place; take a different view. Ask others what the view of you is like. Let what they say flow all the way through you. What’s true will vibrate you. What’s personal piffle will fall away. Don’t waste energy going after their piffle with judgment or self-justification. Look at what you value, and check that every part of you smiles upon it.
Love what you value without expecting anything back. Gratitude born of love and appreciation nourishes. Don’t waste energy looking to see who’s noticed your gratitude or clocked your abundance. Share it with joy. Don’t waste energy contemplating your navel. Contemplate instead the navel of creation, of all that is, the great, glorious universal mystery of which we are all a part. Look outwards so that you may know the inside.
I don’t earn much money, but I live beautifully, abundant in love and appreciation, overwhelmed by grace (that word too, means gratitude). Women on Fire is part of my gratitude. So it carries something of the abundance for which I am grateful.
Here is some of my gratitude stock:
Love, the gift of noticing beauty, Earth, her generosity, death, decay and resulting fertility (that cycle, visible in an English hedgerow, is continuously present in my life), companionship, womanly grace, energy, vitality, laughter, sharing, wildfire, compassion, truthfulness… and all the power that comes from all of that together.
The Women on Fire weekend at Embercombe connects woman, as grace, to Earth, as favour (that word means to show kindness to). It connects woman to woman, irrespective of time and space. It celebrates womanly wisdom without regard to contemporary culture. I will show you how to plug your body’s circuit into that of the Earth, through gratitude.
There is no fee for what I offer. But if you come, I invite you to express gratitude. First, the feeling grateful. Not to me, but to whatever it is that I am in service to.
Second, the expressing, the sharing of gratitude. Let it rise in you, flood through you and out of you. Allow full giveaway. This might be in any form: something made, grown, sung, bought, treasured, appreciated, earned, created but most of all, valued. Of course this can include money too. Money expresses, betokens, value. The great generosity of money is that the recipient chooses where to place its value. I may myself give away or share what is gifted to me. And if anything is for me personally, it will become part of my gratitude.
Be grateful for Earth, for your womanly body, for sharing, for companionship, for bare feet touched by Earth’s vitality, for freedom from judgment and comparison, and for the guardians of the land, the facilities, that are Embercombe, and you will help to build a little economy this weekend that is based on grace. Invest gratitude and you’ll find the return is greater than the investment. Your part is to notice what to celebrate, to allow grace full flow. Through gratitude you will come to know your own worth, and your value in the economy that is love.
© Judith Seelig 2013